Last Tuesday was National Red Wine Day.
Now, it’s impossible to keep up with every single so-called “national holiday.” But if I had known, I would’ve uncorked a bottle of the red rooibos wine I brought back with me from South Africa.
Red wine contains two compounds that stop plaque from forming – keeping your smile bright and beautiful.
I enjoy having a glass or two of this wine from time to time.
But many of my patients tell me they stopped drinking red wine — despite its heart and brain benefits — because they believe it’s bad for their smile.
They heard drinking red wine would turn their teeth purple. And that those stains could end up causing a lot of dental damage.
That’s when I tell them about some brand-new research I came across that shows how red wine can actually improve your smile by preventing tooth decay and gum disease.
So you don’t have to give up your favorite with-dinner drink…
Gum disease is a serious condition. It starts with simple dental plaque. But as it builds up on your teeth it creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
The bacteria trigger inflammation.
And that leads to the red, swollen and bleeding gums of gingivitis.
Left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. The gums pull back from the roots of teeth. Infection attacks the tissue that holds teeth to the jawbone. Teeth start to come loose and fall out.
This breakdown of your gums also allows bacteria to pass into your bloodstream. Studies show the same bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease also damage the lining of blood vessels.1
Red wine can help put the brakes on that whole disease process…
A new study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that red wine contains two plant compounds called caffeic and p-coumaric acids.
These polyphenols are powerful antioxidants. They reduce the stickiness of harmful bacteria in your mouth. They stop the bacteria from hitching a ride on your teeth and gums. That can stop the formation of dental plaque, cavities and gum disease.2
If you’re not a red wine fan, no problem. You can also get polyphenols from many fruits, vegetables and spices. The best sources are:
- Green tea
- Cacao powder
- Black grapes
- Star anise
3 More Ways to Improve Your Smile
I also help my patients keep their gums healthy and their teeth bright with some simple habits. Here are a few things you can do right at home for a beautiful smile.
- Drink “Mary Bush” Tea. My herbalist friend Ivey Harris is a seventh-generation Maroon healer in Jamaica. She introduced me to a plant she called “Mary Bush.” Here in the States we know this herb as holy basil (Ocimum gratissimum).
Studies show holy basil helps protect your teeth and gums when you drink it in tea or rinse your mouth with it. It can reduce plaque and gingivitis.3
You can get holy basil leaves and flowers at specialty stores and online. They may be sold as “Tulsi Vana.” To make holy basil tea, add 1 ounce fresh or ½ ounce of the dried leaves and flowers to 1 ½ pints of boiling water. Steep fresh leaves for 5 minutes or dried leaves for 15 minutes.
Drink one cup three times a day.
- Chew On Coenzyme Q10. People with gum disease have a deficiency of CoQ10. But replacing CoQ10 reserves can turn that around.
Look for a chewable form of CoQ10, and leave it in your mouth for a few minutes to coat your gums. Or gargle with a natural mouthwash containing CoQ10.
You can also take 60 mg per day of a CoQ10 supplement. Just make sure it’s the “reduced” or ubiquinol form. But if you already have gum disease or an infection, take 100 mg twice a day. I’ve seen it help repair visibly damaged gum tissue.
- Load up on vitamin D3. When was the last time you heard your dentist recommend you take vitamin D to protect your dental health?
Probably never. Yet high blood levels of anti-inflammatory vitamin D3 can decrease your chances of gingivitis and periodontal disease.
A large study found that folks with the highest D levels had the lowest risk of periodontal disease — especially those over age 50. It also found that people who got the most vitamin D from their diet were less likely to bleed when their gums were poked and prodded by a dentist.4
Your best source of vitamin D is the sun. I recommend getting between 10 and 20 minutes of sunshine every day. But you can also get D through your diet and supplements.
The best sources are cod liver oil, wild-caught salmon and small fish like herring, sardines and anchovies.
When supplementing, make sure you take a vitamin D3 called calcitriol, which is about 87% more potent than D2. I suggest 5,000 IU to 8,000 IU daily. Be sure to take a vitamin D supplement that includes both vitamin K2(menaquinone-7) and magnesium to improve absorption.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Phillips P, et al. “Expression of Porphyromonas gingivalis small RNA in response to hemin availability identified using microarray and RNA-seq analysis.” FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2014;351(2):202-208.
2. Esteban-Fernández A, et al. “Inhibition of oral pathogens adhesion to human gingival fibroblasts by wine polyphenols alone and in combination with an oral probiotic.” J Agric Food Chem. 2018; 66 (9)2071-2082.
3. Pereira S, et al. “Clinical effect of a mouth rinse containing Ocimum gratissimum on plaque and gingivitis control.” J Contemp Dent Pract. 2011;12(5):350-355.
4. Dietrich T, et al. “Association between serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and gingival inflammation.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(3):575-580.